From Safety Footwear Export to India’s Most Promising PPE Brand
From Safety Footwear Export to India’s Most Promising PPE Brand
Varun Budhiraja’s Next Plan?
Personalising Protection down to its basic elements.
Incorporated in 2004, Euro Safety Footwear has for 15 years now, led in the P.P.E. and industrial safety footwear manufacturing vertical. The company has held its position steadily, to-date remaining one of Asia’s largest and leading integrated manufacturers of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
Under the wise leadership of Varun Budhiraja, Director, Euro Safety Group of Companies, they launched operations across India. He successfully introduced the first brand ‘Euro Security’ to the market for safety footwear in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Middle East and subsequently added products for global markets by establishing strategic manufacturing alliances in China, Sri Lanka, & Malaysia. After Varun sensed the potential in SAARC & MENA regions, from 2016, the company steadily started escalating the production competence of their existing footwear manufacturing facility in Agra. In 2019, Euro Safety Equipments (ESE) was established to focus on the manufacture of garments, gloves, and masks, now they are also eying the hospitality and aviation markets in India.
MORE ON VARUN BUDHIRAJA
As the Director of Euro Safety Group of Companies, he started at a young age of 20 after earning a graduation degree from Lancaster University, UK, in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. He also has degrees in footwear designing, digital marketing, luxury management from Milan, Mannheim and Paris respectively and holds C-level designations in Roger Group’s allied firms and organizations.
On completion of a stupendous 15 years of successful operations, The CEO Magazine, in an enlightening conversation with the visionary-Director, Varun, found a chance to know more about his lesser-known sides, the company, industry, business model, corporate ethos, work culture, plans, technological bends and more;
TCM: What is your role professionally apart from the one at Euro Safety Group?
Varun: Aside from my role in Euro Safety Group, I also oversee Boa Safety Solutions (owned by the Euro Safety Group) for the distribution of PPE in South Africa. I was instrumental in developing the marketing team, channel partners and product line-up as per the requirements of the South African market. As if to compliment my work in these manufacturing companies, I am also the marketing director of D’Selva Infotech, an IT-based Service Company, which is into web and app development, they made both for Euro Safety. At D’Selva Infotech, I contribute with strategizing and solutions development. Lastly, I am also the founder and Vice President of Roger Foundation, the CSR arm of Euro Safety Group, so, quite the whole package, between manufacturing, services, and CSR.
TCM: Apart from work where does your interest incline, tell us more about your passion, interests etc?
Varun: Unbeknownst to most people, I am a published CREATOR/Author of the book “VD Artistic Verses” I am also actively involved in producing copy for company creative and in strategizing for Euro Safety Group. If I was not in the field of PPE Manufacturing, I would most likely have been part of some creative field like advertising, copywriting or would have pursued becoming a chef. However, since I have to manage the company as well, I have taken a compromise approach, mixing passion and profession. To balance the two, I live out my passion through my business career of directing the marketing, design and branding team at Euro Safety. A person’s passion and profession need not be mutually exclusive.
TCM: What was the rationale behind choosing the path to this business line?
Varun: Right from the outset, I sensed a lacuna in the Indian PPE market – that India does not have an organized, one-stop shop of PPE for all sectors and industry verticals.
Though we started with only footwear manufacture, we have diversified into a variety of safety equipment and ultimately aspire to be a go-to-supplier for all PPE needs in India and south Asia.
As you and your readers will know, the chain is only as strong as the weakest link, and unless Indian companies have top quality PPE, our manufacturing will never be able to compete with those of the West and China. My long term vision and future plan is to make Euro Safety Group the biggest and most reliable supplier of PPE for all sorts of workers – who will feel secure in the knowledge that though accidents are inevitable in a hazardous work environment such as theirs, the top class PPE of Euro Safety will be with them all the way, to mitigate the risks and damages.
In the coming years, I want to ensure that Euro Safety Group keeps doubling in size every 5 years for decades, consequently ensuring that, thanks to our PPE, employees in emerging markets such as India and South Asia work under utmost standards of psychological safety. Greater psychological safety is proven by management research to improve both, worker-morale (and thus output) inside the company and brand-image outside. By improving the safety standards of workers, I want to make the Euro Safety Group of the future, a multimillion-dollar enterprise, synonymous with world-class PPE at affordable price points. Euro Safety Group is committed to ensuring that Indian and South Asian companies provide their employees with the best standards of safety equipment and consequently high degrees of psychological safety.
TCM: Tell us about your team. With such a fast-growing team, how do you make sure everybody stays motivated and how do you support the corporate culture?
Varun: We at Euro Safety Group have all sorts of people from engineers to technicians, manufacturers and marketers in our team. We have engaged skilled and experienced technicians who are well versed in operating the latest imported machinery and are aware of all the nuances of manufacturing industrial safety footwear. While selecting my team, I make sure that their capabilities and qualifications are resonant with the long-term vision, I have for the company. The other thing that I stress on is chemistry between the team members because their collective output needs to reflect our corporate culture. Each party has their jobs cut out, and I make sure that each is provided with the best in class equipment and facilities and that they all work synergistically. For Euro Safety Group to go from strength to strength, the whole needs to be more than the sum of its parts.
TCM: How do you think you’re different from your peers/competitors, what makes you different from them?
Varun: Euro Safety Group started as the PPE diversification of Roger Group. Unlike most other players in this industry, we brought many decades of manufacturing experience, reputation, established supply lines and distribution channels from the beginning. As an exporter of quality footwear, we also had 1st world standards quality control in place for a long time. Hence, unlike most of our competitors, we made quality products in the PPE space, right from the outset. And since then, we have been extending our product line and customizing our product offering to suit the specific demands of the industry verticals we supply to.
In future we are also planning to have an investment arm – suppose some bio-tech student in some Indian institute, develops a polymer, that could be used to make better and/or cheaper safety equipment, we will be happy to incubate his or her research. Just like Indian companies must embrace better safety standards to remain competitive, so must our manufacturers embrace better and newer technology, to truly belong to the 21st century. I want Euro Safety Group to be a pioneer of such in India and hence see this as an integral element of our broader strategy.
TCM: Elaborate on the challenges of marketing operations in India vs. overseas, after when you started in 2015?
Varun: The Indian market is very different from the export market of the developed countries. We are more price-conscious whereas they are quality conscious. Under my guidance, Euro Safety tried to provide PPE at Indian price points, without compromising one bit on quality, even if it meant having razor-thin margins.
At Eurosafety group we combine top quality raw materials, with international standards of safety and the latest European design elements – all at affordable rates.
On the flip side, it is somewhat easier to establish distribution channels and partnerships with Indian industries, since this market is well known to us.
We have also smoothly integrated the latest marketing approaches in our mix, using tactics like “social listening” – to find out about the market’s upcoming needs and having regular interactions with our customers on our social media pages. Hence it is no surprise that to this day,
Euro Safety is one of the few companies that consistently provide world-class PPE products to the Indian market, all at affordable rates.
TCM: What nature of customer base do you serve, tell us more about that?
Varun: Euro Safety caters to all industry verticals from pharmaceuticals, construction, Agriculture sector, railways et al. Our diverse range of safety equipment is carefully engineered and designed in our state of the art laboratory, to guarantee utmost safety whilst keeping in mind the performance requirements of hazardous jobs. Our customizations of products as per the needs of various industries include, metal-free shoes for airport ground staff and extra comfortable shoes for the air hostesses, washable, lightweight shoes with toe caps for the hotel F&B industry and see-through transparent helmets for construction workers.
Our long-term vision is to have such a big customer base so as to become a household name in PPE in India and Asia.
TCM: Explain, how does Euro Safety create value for users and emerging businesses?
Varun: According to the International Labour Organization, only 20% of the Indian labour force is covered under adequate Health and Safety laws, resulting in over 48000 fatalities yearly. I predict that very soon the Indian government will mandate safety guidelines in other industry verticals as well, more so because India is swiftly integrating with international trade pacts and protocols, which mandate certain minimum safety standards. Understandably getting industrial and quality management certifications – for which world-class Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a prerequisite, is the new minimum benchmark for Indian companies if they want to remain competitive and obtain export licenses to developed countries. Adequate safety standards at the workplace, simultaneously improve employee perception inside the company and brand reputation outside, leading to both increased productivity and better sales. Under my guidance, Euro Safety Group is continuously helping Indian companies achieve these ends, all at Indian price points.
Also, with Prime Minster Modi’s “Make in India” initiative being implemented across many sectors, we foresee a spate of manufacturing activity in the coming 5 years, each requiring lots of PPE. We at Euro Safety Group are prepared to meet this glut of demand and will support such initiatives throughout India.
TCM: How are you giving back to society, is Euro Group into CSR activities?
Varun: CSR is a relatively unpopular activity among most Indian mid-sized companies, but we choose to be different. The CSR initiatives of Euro Safety Group are undertaken by the Roger Foundation, where I am the founder and VP. It was on the 40th anniversary of Roger Group, that we decided it was the appropriate time to start giving back to society and starting our CSR arm. We believe in inclusive growth and thus try to make sure we do our fair share to help the underprivileged sections of society. Roger Foundation tries to generate goodwill and growth in rural India, in sectors spanning rural development, women empowerment, healthcare and education.
TCM: What advice would you like to share with aspirants who would want to start their venture in the industry?
Varun: According to the PWC “World in 2050” report, the Indian economy is set to grow 10 times in the coming three decades. This incredible growth will require lots of new infrastructure projects, tons of manufacturing (and mining) and an overall improvement in our living and working standards. Thus, this vertical of PPE manufacture is absolutely in phase with the changes India will go through, so as to emerge as a superpower economy and is only going to grow henceforth.
Also, I want to emphasize, that in this vertical, quality control is of paramount importance, since we cannot take chances with human life. Indian market holds great potential. With increasing regulations and awareness in India, I think it is only a matter of a time when safety equipment won’t just be looked at as an unnecessary expense but more like imperative piece of work attire. I wish aspirant entrepreneurs well if they want to enter the PPE vertical and welcome their competition, after all, competition leads to better products at lesser price points, for the customers and I look forward to it.
TCM: Our sources tell us you have added a few new feathers to your cap – you won “India’s Greatest Leader” award and the Stars of the Industry “Best in Class” award, how do you feel about these?
Varun: Yes, I was recently awarded “India’s Greatest Leader” award by the URS Asia One magazine. And only last week,
I was given the Young Achiever award by Stars of the Industry in Mumbai.
I want to thank my whole team at Euro Safety for these achievements. It’s their hard work and dedication which made it possible, and I have reasons to believe that these awards are only the beginning of many such other milestones that we at ESFI will achieve collectively in future.
However, as a Director with a long-term vision for one of India’s most promising companies, I feel the biggest award that I and my team at Euro Safety can get, is when we become absolutely synonymous with all types of PPE in India, thereby also becoming the prime reason for ensuring safety and saving lives of workers all over.
TCM: How many brands of yours are currently operational in India, as earlier you mentioned you started with only Euro Security?
Varun: Indian customers are not so much brand conscious, as they are price conscious – against this gradient, Eurosafety is constantly striving to increase its brand visibility and recall.
We sell our products under a variety of brands and labels – Euro Security is our premium brand offering head to toe safety products. We sell shoes especially customized for the Aviation and Hospitality market under the ‘Avio’ label. ‘Eurock’ is our budget safety footwear product, aimed at the masses. And finally, we sell a range of stylish industrial safety footwear and accessories, under the Canvas Club brand.
Most of the PPE in India is still made by the unorganised sector, who deliver unbranded products – Eurosafety wants to change that
in the next few years.
TCM: What is your vision for the company? And where do you see Euro Safety in the next five years?
Varun: From where I stand, in 5 years, Euro Safety Group is going to be the primary choice of anyone’s need for protection and safety. Since we started marketing our products domestically, we have had an annual growth rate of over 500% and we are making all the efforts to keep this figure going.
In 10 years from now, I wish to see Euro Safety Group as India’s leading PPE provider, an Indian MNC synonymous with PPE in the Indian and SE Asian market.
Varun summarises, The Indian economy is set to grow 10 times in the coming 3 decades. This incredible growth will require lots of new infrastructure projects, tons of manufacturing (and mining) and an overall improvement in our living and working standards. In the coming years Euro Safety Group wants to meet the demand of PPE in India’s head on and help Indian companies embrace the future, where our workers will work under high degree of safety standards.”